News roundup October 12, 2013

Following on the heels of a very busy week for 3D printing news, this week saw very few big headlines. The perennial favorites appeared, discussing the printing of guns and medical devices. Much of the news is being created by the printer manufactures and many companies trying to make headlines are seeing a backlash from the blogging world cautioning everyone to be careful of the hype.

  • While the news is light, take the time to learn about the coming legal challenges guaranteed to hit the 3D printing world. Bloomberg sums up this excellent article stating, “The early promises of 3D printing have begun to emerge. Along with lifesaving discovery and exponential individual and collective creativity, intellectual property–and other–litigation will serve to define just what impact 3D technology has in the decades to come.”
  • Huffington Post continues to try and mainstream 3D printing by showcasing Shapeways. They provide a nice summary of the differing capabilities of consumer 3D printers and the professional machines available at Shapeways. I think we need a new acronym for ’3d printing as a service’ maybe we call it 3PaaS, but that might get confusing with Platform as a Service.  I’ll keep thinking about it.
  • The most covered single event of the week was the opening of “3D: Printing the Future” at the Science Museum, London. Most of the coverage read like press releases pushed out by the sponsors of the event.  It’s running until January 7, 2014. Hmm, how do I convince my boss I need to go to London?

Prototyping for Profit

I just got an email today from Peter Corbett at IStrategyLabs. We have similar interests in open government, although he stays much more involved in the movement. The email was showcasing a number of his latest initiatives at his agency, and one immediately jumped off the page. It said, “Watch our team 3D print their way to an ultimate SpongeBob hack.” The video chronicles the creation of a internet connected carnival claw machine, showcases a Replicator 2, and talks a fair amount about how important 3D printing was for them to be able to build this one of a kind creation.

Maybe if you are going to be a prototyper, you have to accept that companies like Nickelodeon are going to be your patrons. You have to enjoy the hack and appreciate the enjoyment others get out of interacting with it. Or maybe just maybe that isn’t the only way.

Really awesome work, I’m more than a little bit jealous. Video is below and well worth watching, it even gets super techie at the end talking about Mongo and Virtual cloud servers.

Spongebob Skill Crane from iStrategyLabs on Vimeo.

Phase 1: Collect Underpants

I love Phase 1. Give me a new project every week to research and investigate. Let me build a prototype and hack it together with duck tape and spit. Unfortunately without a well defined phase 2, there aren’t many people willing to bank role a continuous prototyping and experimenting lifestyle. And then, if you succeed in developing a phase 2, it takes a whole different skill set and dedication.


News roundup October 4, 2013

It was a busy week in the news for 3D printing. Big names are making big news. The hype is fun, but is the technology ready for main stream scrutiny? It is going to take a lot of education before consumers understand the variety of printing methods, materials, and the massive cost differential for quality and flexibility.




The spark of inspiration.

A little over a week ago a friend posted on facebook a link to the Free Universal Construction Kit. The kit takes about 10 different favorite child construction toys, Legos, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, Tinker toys, and others and allows you to connect the different toys together with 3d printed adapters. I had to have them. I started doing web searches and making phone calls, yes phone calls, I often over research a problem instead of just asking someone for help. As a technologist I regularly see RTFM attitudes that are part of our culture and can be counter productive to just getting a job done.
Back to inspiration. It didn’t take long to find out that MakerBot had a showroom in lower Manhattan. They don’t do any printing, but referred me to to find someone to print the kit. It turns out there are hundreds or maybe thousands of hobbyists out there willing to send you a quote to print items. I put in my zip code and immediately found a number of individuals with 3D printers in a town near me.

I’ve known about 3D printers for many years. I’ve dreamed about them since Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age and believed in their potential after reading Daniel Suarez’s Daemon and Freedom. I am working in a newsroom now that follows the 3D printed gun stories that made the public notice this technology. None of this inspired me beyond a good read, it was a facebook post about a year old pattern that excited me into action.

The Free Universal Construction Kit from Adapterz on Vimeo.


Just like 1994? Well, maybe not exactly.

The 3D printing revolution will not directly affect 95% of the people you know in the next 20 years. 3D printing will not enter every household. It will not alter the way we communicate with each other in a dramatic fashion. 3D printing will not disrupt every sector of the global economy, aid in the upheaval of governments, and challenge century-old social contracts. 3D printing is not the next internet.

Maybe that’s why I am so interested in following it’s progression. Maybe the internet got too big too fast for it to be exciting to me right now. Maybe I just don’t feel like the things I’m making online are tangible enough to give real value to anyone beyond a flash of entertainment. Maybe 20 years is just a long time to be focused on any skill set without getting bored.

The first time I went ‘online’ in a meaningful way, with a web browser, was in December of 1994. Netscape 1.0 had just been released and I surfed the net for hours. For weeks everything I saw in the non-virtual world would inspire me to think about the ways it was going to change now that people could go online. I told everyone I knew and met about how everything was different now. It was usually the same, “sounds cool, I don’t really get it, but I can’t see how it will ever effect me”. It only took a couple of years, the rise of Ebay, the rapid growth of email and soon people realized the web was something they wanted in their lives. Even with a 3D printer in everyone’s home, it just won’t have the same impact. But that doesn’t stop it from being revolutionary and super cool.

3D printing services will start to pop-up all around us. Libraries are starting to give access to 3D maker labs. Libraries are where many people got their internet for years, and many still do. UPS is testing having 3D printers available in stores. 3D printing will challenge us to think differently about copyright and patent law. It will increase the level of abundance that we now have which will lead to disruption of production processes and supply chains. I can’t be certain about all that will be affected, but I can be certain that it excites me like the early days of the internet and I would like to make an attempt at chronicling the growth and my understanding of this new way to express oneself.